Scary Movies For Tweens and Teens
Trying to watch movies around children can be a challenge. Especially during the Halloween season, how do you pick something that is scary… but not too scary? Scary movies for tweens and teens can perhaps be the most challenging to decide on because of that awkward age. They’re almost grown up to watch a full-fledged horror movie but you don’t want them running to your bed in the middle of the night because they keep “seeing” something in their closet. You’re in luck because today we’ve curated a list of some of the best scary movies for tweens and teens.
Horror movies can be for all ages. It is a genre that contains all sorts of subgenres and for good reason! There’s so much you can do with it and so many places you can take it. The 80’s really brought a rise to tween horror films, giving teenagers something they could go watch in theaters without having to sneak in or get into trouble with their parents. It is something that continued throughout the 90s and persists today. There are a lot of great scary movies for tweens to enjoy, too many to count if we’re honest!
So instead of trying to name them all, today we are going to focus on thirty-one of the perfect scary movies to show your tweens and teens. We’ve organized the list from the least scary to the scariest. Some of the films listed are darker in subject matter than others so when showing your children please follow the MPA rating guidelines. Enjoy!
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Directed by Henry Selick and written by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, who discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home cause confusion amongst his creepy citizens. The film stars Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, and Catherine O’Hara.
The number one spot for this list of scary movies for tweens and teens is The Nightmare Before Christmas. Everyone has at least heard of The Nightmare Before Christmas while growing up. If you watched it once, you’ve most likely watched it over and over and over again since. It is the perfect holiday film not only for Halloween but for Christmas as well.
With Tim Burton’s brilliant story and Henry Selick’s incredible direction, this film is a masterpiece. The Nightmare Before Christmas blends horror, comedy, and wonderful stop-motion animation all together in one perfect story for all ages to enjoy. The Nightmare Before Christmas is now streaming on Disney+.
Hocus Pocus stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy in this Disney live-action feature. The movie follows a boy who moves to the town of Salem, where he struggles to fit in before awakening a trio of wicked witches that were executed in the 17th century.
Hocus Pocus was a Halloween staple for 90s kids and it still resonates with those kids who have grown up today. With its larger-than-life performances, Halloween backdrop, and entertaining musical numbers it’s a perfect movie to get your entire family in the spooky mood.
Hocus Pocus 2
Directed by Anne Fletcher and written by Jen D’Angelo, Hocus Pocus 2 follows two young women who accidentally bring back the Sanderson Sisters to modern-day Salem and must figure out how to stop the child-hungry witches from wreaking havoc on the world. The film stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy.
Hocus Pocus 2 is a fun and spooky celebration of the original. This Disney+ original movie is definitely made for the fans but its love of the property shines through every scene. The trio of evil witches is back and they absolutely steal the show! It’s silly enough for the whole family to enjoy, while also featuring the perfect amount of spooky atmosphere, it’s an easy recommendation for our list.
This 2015 film brought the Goosebumps series to the big screen for the first time. Although I am ultimately a bigger fan of the series from the 90’s, it is great to see the series get a spot on the big screen, leading even to a sequel.
This film features two neighbors who unleash the monsters from R.L. Stine’s stories, resulting in them trying to put the monsters back in the book once again. If you’re looking for a film that is tame, doesn’t take things too far, and stays friendly for all ages, this is a great pick. I would recommend also watching the series Goosebumps, which can currently be found on Netflix.
Directed by Gil Kenan and written by Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab, as well as Pamela Pettler, Monster House follows three teens who discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living, breathing, scary monster. The film stars Mitchell Musso, Sam Lerner, and Spencer Locke.
Released in 2006, this computer-animated comedy horror was centered around three young kids who suspect that a house in the neighborhood is a monster but no adult believes them. I watch Monster House every Halloween. The cast is stacked with great actors voicing the characters such as Steve Buscemi, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee, Catherine O’Hara, and many more. It borders on terrifying and silly brilliantly, an absolute must-watch scary movie for tweens and teens. You can check out Monster House on Netflix.
The Haunted Mansion
Directed by Rob Minkoff and written by David Berenbaum, The Haunted Mansion follows a realtor and his wife and children who are summoned to a mansion, which they soon discover is haunted, and while they attempt to escape, he learns an important lesson about the family he has neglected. The film stars Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, and Jennifer Tilly.
As a kid, it is absolutely terrifying. As a teenager and an adult, you may find its crypt scene scary but with its performances from Eddie Murphy, it’s more hilarious than anything. With mixed reviews on release, Disney’s The Haunted Mansion carries a special spooky place in our hearts. The film is nearly twenty years old now and we’re very much looking forward to the remake coming out next year. In the meantime, The Haunted Mansion is available to stream on Disney+.
The Corpse Bride
Directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson, with writing provided by John August, The Corpse Bride follows a shy groom who practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman, she rises from the grave assuming he has married her. The film stars Johnny Depp, Emily Watson, and Helena Bonham Carter.
Another fantastic stop-motion animated film by Tim Burton. This 2005 film had Johnny Depp voicing the character of Victor Van Dort who is supposed to marry Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) through an arranged wedding. Victor panics and heads to the woods, after he correctly says his vows, he accidentally marries a dead woman named Emily, AKA the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter). Burton has always directed stop-motion animation so well and this is just another example of the talent he employs.
Directed by Tim Burton and written by Warren Skarren, Beetlejuice follows the spirits of a deceased couple who are harassed by an unbearable family that has moved into their home, and hire a malicious spirit to drive them out. The film stars Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Catherine O’Hara. Beetlejuice is one of Tim Burton’s best films and one of the best 80’s movies period.
It is Tim Burton in his element. It is his high. Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice is still such an incredible casting choice. I can go on all day about the perfect casting in this movie. Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara… I love it. The mix of horror and comedy is perfectly blended in this film. The set pieces are incredible, along with the wonderful special effects done by Ve Neill. Its humor might be better suited for teens but a must-watch regardless.
Directed and written by Henry Selick, Coraline follows an adventurous 11-year-old girl who finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it has sinister secrets. The film stars Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, and John Hodgman. Adapted from the book by Neil Gaiman, this wonderfully terrifying stop-motion animated feature film from Laika was and still is AMAZING.
It is a film loved by such a wide audience, myself and my wife included. Coraline blended whimsy, horror, and humor so well together, along with beautiful colors and nightmarish set pieces. Laika has always surprised me with their stop-motion animation and they only get bigger and bigger with each film. Coraline is rated PG, but that doesn’t hold it back from being scary, especially with the use of the Beldam.
Produced by Stephen Spielberg, directed by Joe Dante, and written by Chris Columbus, Gremlins follows a young man who inadvertently breaks three important rules concerning his new pet and unleashes a horde of malevolently mischievous monsters on a small town. The film stars Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Hoyt Axton.
This 1984 film introduced the world to the Mogwai known as Gizmo. A gadget salesman buys the Mogwai to give to his son Billy (Zach Galligan) for Christmas with three rules to follow: 1. Keep him away from bright lights. 2. Do not get him wet. 3. Do not feed him after midnight. Of course, Billy breaks all the rules, resulting in Gizmo sprouting multiple Gremlins, but these ones are evil and cause mischief and chaos.
Gremlins has been a beloved movie for years and is one of the most perfect scary movies for tweens and teens you could watch. This is truly a film that the whole family can enjoy! There is even a sequel you can seek out, Gremlins 2: The New Batch. It’s a phenomenal movie for Halloween but it also makes an even better Christmas horror movie! Gremlins is now streaming on HBO Max.
Frankenweenie is one that I don’t hear Burton fans expressing their love enough for: it is absolutely brilliant. Basically the story of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster, in Frankenweenie, Victor’s dog Sparky, is accidentally run down. In his death, Victor manages to bring his best friend back to life. The other students in town hear of what Victor had done and hope to resurrect their own lost pets as well.
As an ode to classic Universal monster movies, the entirety of the film is in black and white. The movie even brings classic Kaiju monsters to wreak havoc on the small town of New Holland. You can check out Frankenweenie and Tim Burton’s original live-action short film from 1984 on Disney+.
After the release of Coraline, Laika Studios went in on a stop-motion animated family horror comedy called Paranorman. This fantastic film introduces our main character Norman, who can see dead people, as he is told by his crazy uncle that their town has a witch’s curse over it and only Norman can stop it. Soon, the dead rise from their graves and Norman tries to find a way to save the town. It is such a good movie that I would recommend to anyone. You can watch Paranorman on Netflix.
The Addams Family
Weird is relative. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Caroline Thompson and Larry Wilson, The Addams Family follows con artists planning to fleece an eccentric family using an accomplice who claims to be their long-lost uncle. The film stars Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, and Christopher Lloyd. It’s everyone’s favorite weird family! The Addams Family is an easy recommendation for people looking to find a “scary” movie to show their tweens or teens. With their deadpan humor, eccentric home life, and crazy antics The Addams Family can be enjoyed by anyone of any age!
Growing up and even still to this day, I love Scooby Doo, which was released back in 2002. The cast was fantastic for a live-action adaptation, especially Matthew Lillard taking the role of Shaggy, which led to him voicing the character for years. Although the CGI is outdated for today’s standards and even felt off a bit back when it was released, it still contains everything that makes a good Scooby-Doo film. With wacky comedy and creepy monsters, it’s an all-around great film for the whole family. If you’re dying to watch it again or want to check it out for the first time, it is currently available on HBO Max.
Who you gonna call? Directed by Ivan Reitman and written by Dan Akroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis, Ghostbusters follows three parapsychologists forced out of their university funding who then set up shop as a unique ghost removal service in New York City, attracting frightened yet skeptical customers. The film stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Rick Moranis.
Ghostbusters is such a horror comedy just as beloved today as it was when it was released back in 1984. The casting was absolutely excellent with Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Rick Moranis. Ghostbusters is ever hilarious and continues to gain more ghastly fans to this day. A classic scary movie to show your tween or teen!
Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)
Discover the past. Save the future. Directed and written by Jason Reitman with additional writing by Gil Kenan and Dan Aykroyd, Ghostbusters: Afterlife follows a single mom and her two kids when they arrive in a small town, they begin to discover their connection to the original Ghostbusters and the secret legacy their grandfather left behind. The film stars Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, and Finn Wolfhard.
The film is a therapy session in a lot of ways for Ghostbuster fans. It wraps up the events of the first film while paving the way for future installments. It’s silly, overflowing with heart, and packed with stellar special effects. Like the original films, its focus on wonder rather than scares really brings this installment to a new level. It’s the perfect way to introduce younger generations to everyone’s favorite paranormal exterminators.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)
Directed by Sam Raimi and written by Michael Waldron, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness follows Doctor Strange as he teams up with a mysterious teenage girl from his dreams who can travel across the multiverse, to battle multiple threats, including other-universe versions of himself, which threaten to wipe out millions across the multiverse. They seek help from Wanda the Scarlet Witch, Wong, and others. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict Wong, Elizabeth Olsen, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Though this isn’t an overt horror flick, this Marvel movie pulls tons of imagery and energy from the genre. With horror movie director Sam Raimi heading this addition to the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), it’s easy to see why it works so well. If you’re not caught up with the MCU or WandaVision you may be a bit lost but if you’re in it just for the superhero action set pieces you should be fine. Zombies, witches, demons, and more there’s plenty of spooky fun to be enjoyed by all!
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark
Directed by André Øvredal and written by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, and Guillermo del Toro, Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark follows three friends on Halloween night who uncover a sinister notebook of stories. The film stars Zoe Margaret Colletti, Michael Garza, and Gabriel Rush. Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark was the first live-action adaptation to tackle the terrifying tales conjured from Alvin Schwartz’s books.
Every kid growing up in the 90s remembers the absolutely terrifying imagery of the books, which were banned for some time. The movie brings to life several stories from the original series, such as Harold, The Red Spot, The Dream, and many more. It is a great scary movie for tweens and teens! With a wonderful blend of CGI and practical effects, I believe every level of horror movie fan, especially fans of the books, should check out.
The Monster Squad
You know who to call when you have ghosts… but who do you call when you have monsters? Directed and written by Fred Dekker with additional writing by Shane Black, The Monster Squad follows a young group of monster fanatics attempting to save their hometown from Count Dracula and his monsters. The film stars Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, and Stephen Macht.
The Monster Squad is a spooky and hilarious throwback to all of the classic Universal Monster movies. From its laugh-out-loud opening crawl to the final battle of the film, The Monster Squad is a fun watch for the whole family. With stellar practical special effects, monster-loving teenagers, and Dracula for some reason attacking people with dynamite? You’ll enjoy The Monster Squad for years to come.
Little Shop of Horrors
A singing plant. A daring hero. A sweet girl. A demented dentist. It’s the most outrageous musical comedy in years. Directed by Frank Oz and written by Howard Ashman, Little Shop of Horrors follows a nerdy florist who finds his chance for success and romance with the help of a giant man-eating plant that demands to be fed. The film stars Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Vincent Gardenia.
This killer plant comedy is one for the ages. With a phenomenal cast of performances and catchy musical numbers, Little Shop of Horrors will stick with your tweens and teens forever. The entire film is a musical but don’t let that deter you from feasting on this film for yourself. With its semi-crude humor and ridiculous premise, Little Shop of Horrors makes for the perfect scary movie for your tween or teen.
Happy Death Day
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the trailer for Happy Death Day back in 2017. As a massive fan of slashers (Scream being my absolute favorite), I was excited for a brand new film in that vein of filmmaking and I wasn’t disappointed.
Tree (Jessica Rothe) finds herself a victim of a serial killer wearing a creepy baby-faced mask, but every time she dies, she wakes up the next morning, only to relive the day over and over again. It is Groundhog Day meets Scream meets any slasher that you know and love. It’s funny, it’s creepy and it was successful enough to have a sequel that was released in 2019.
From Matt Reeves (the incredible director behind Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, War For The Planet Of The Apes, and the next Batman movie) and JJ Abrams, comes a found footage movie set in New York on the day that a gigantic, monstrous creature appears and begins to destroy everything in its path. This film is definitely one of the better found footage films before Paranormal Activity really brought found footage films back into full swing.
The scale of the creature is terrifying, especially when we are being brought through the streets, occasionally getting a glance up to see the massive creature from the camera’s point of view. Two films following Cloverfield were released. The incredible 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox.
Before directing Shazam! for the DCEU and its upcoming sequel Shazam! Fury Of The Gods, David F. Sandberg directed a great sequel to Annabelle. And, if you want to look at his work even earlier, you’ll find that he made short films on YouTube. Even today, you can still check out his YouTube account “ponysmasher,” which features tips on how to shoot films and how to custom-make tools to help you in filmmaking, and even some short films of his own.
Lights Out is a short film he made back in 2013 that was so adored by audiences that he was able to make a full-length film with the same name for the big screen in 2016. David F. Sandberg continues to make great content and Lights Out is a terrifying PG-13 film and a great feature film debut.
M. Night Shyamalan will be a huge focus on this list because the man knows how to make a really good movie without pushing things way too far. The cast of Signs is fantastic, with Mel Gibson trying to solve a mystery after he finds carvings in his crop field. The cast also includes Joaquin Phoenix, who was also great in his role as Mel Gibson’s brother.
As the film carries on, and the mystery unfolds, the true terror reveals itself. I remember being a kid watching television when this came on during “the birthday scene.” It is one of the scariest scenes I have ever seen in a movie. Definitely seek this film out if you haven’t seen it.
Based on the 1999 short story from Stephen King, this 2007 film starring John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson brings a writer who spends his time debunking sites that claim to have paranormal activity to the supposedly haunted Room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel.
During his stay, Cusack’s character soon realizes that the room is, in fact, haunted; it not only brings out the spirits that haunt the room itself, but also reawakens events from Cusack’s past that he hoped to forget. This PG-13 horror film is terrifying and definitely one I feel that younger audiences who are not capable of watching Stephen King’s more graphic films should check out.
When The Visit was coming out, I had my doubts. I hadn’t watched an M. Night Shyamalan film since The Last Airbender. Based on how I felt about that movie, I kept my expectations very, very low, but I still wanted to watch The Visit. The film ultimately surprised and terrified me. The story follows two siblings who visit their mother’s parents who they have never met in hopes that their mother and her parents will reconnect someday.
Just like in true Shyamalan fashion, there is a huge twist that will terrify and disgust you. The Visit is also a very fantastic found footage film where our characters control a hand-held camera to let us have a front seat in their comical and uncomfortably terrifying visit to their grandparents’ house.
The Final Girls
Here’s a movie that I feel went under everyone’s radar and, as a result, is ridiculously underrated. Our main character, Max (Taissa Farmiga), who has recently become an orphan, goes to a twenty-year re-screening of a cheesy horror movie her mother was in. As the theater is burning down, she and her friends manage to escape by going behind the theater curtain only to find themselves in the movie itself.
This movie is hilarious, creepy, and uses all of the classic horror tropes that you know and love, in a way ripping off of Friday The 13th. If you haven’t seen this 2015 film, I would suggest you seek it out.
Jaws has been terrifying audiences since its release back in 1975. Another classic from Stephen Spielberg, this one made people terrified to go into the ocean. It is recognized as not only one of the best horror movies ever made, but also one of the best movies in general. It is a film that has been copied for years and years and years. Anytime a shark movie is released, it is compared to Jaws. It will remain a classic for years to come.
A Quiet Place
In this 2018 PG-13 horror film, the world has been overrun by creatures that hunt by sound. It was massively successful in its release. This was the first horror film from John Krasinski (you may know him as Jim Halpert from The Office) and, due to the success of this film, a sequel was written and directed by Krasinski and is set to release May 28th, 2021.
Watching it in theaters, the audience was so invested in the story and what the Abbot family needed to do to keep as quiet as possible that we were afraid to even make a sound ourselves. It is definitely one of the best PG-13 horror films to come out in recent years.
Insidious is a film that I have only watched once because of how it affected me while watching it. Images from this movie stuck with me and kept me away from watching it again. Two parents, played by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, try to keep a demonic entity from possessing their comatose child. The demonic entity with the red face was an image that sticks with anyone who sees it. Released in 2010 and spawning three sequels so far, the first Insidious remains one of the scariest PG-13 horror movies of the last decade.
The Ring (American Remake)
If you watch the cursed tape, you die in seven days. With a PG-13 rating, one would think this movie couldn’t achieve the necessary requirements to make a truly scary movie, but just like other movies on this list, there are plenty of great, scary PG-13 horror movies and this is definitely one of them.
Seven days after watching the cursed tape, victims are visited by Samara, the demonic spirit of a young girl with a tragic past, who comes to take their soul – and don’t think for a second that a television screen can stop her from getting to you. This is a horror movie that will stick with you long after it is finished.
The Sixth Sense
I see dead people… Directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense follows a frightened, withdrawn Philadelphia boy who communicates with spirits and seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist. The film stars Hayley Joel Osment, Bruce Willis, and Toni Collette. This film’s famous line has been quoted and referenced in countless other shows and movies.
Bruce Willis is a child psychologist hoping to help Osment with his ability to see the dead. This movie is a terrifying film that heavily deals with grief and the feeling of loss. To this day, The Sixth Sense is, to me, M. Night’s masterpiece and is a must-see for all ages who love scary movies. So if you’ve got young ones who can settle for something quieter and more nuanced, we recommend The Sixth Sense.
What’s Your Favorite Scary Movie For Tweens And Teens?
That is my list of the best scary movies for tweens and teens! The best thing about the horror genre is that there is an endless supply for you to seek out. Whether you are looking for films to watch with your family or those that like to amp up the scares. We hope you enjoyed our list, did we miss any of your favorites? Let us know on social media!